By CHRISTIANA NIELSON
Alan Hatfield is a scholar. He does not have a college or doctoral degree and has not even graduated from high school yet.
He is a Presidential Scholar.
The Columbia School Board recognized Hatfield at its May 10 meeting for being named a 2010 Presidential Scholar earlier this month. Hatfield, an 18-year-old senior at Rock Bridge High School, is the 19th scholar from Columbia Public Schools, and the second from Rock Bridge.
“I didn’t expect to get it at all. I’m definitely humbled by it,” Hatfield said. “To be actually chosen was kind of shocking, and it definitely confirms to me that there are lots of doors opening and maybe it’s a sign of things to come.”A joy for learning
Hatfield, who proved his scholarship when he earned perfect scores of 36 on the ACT and 2400 on the SAT, plans to attend Princeton in the fall.
Superintendent Chris Belcher said Hatfield is one of the brightest students in this school system. “He took advantage of every opportunity to the Nth degree and was also taking college classes this year for credit,” Belcher said.
Marilyn Toalson, gifted education coordinator at Rock Bridge, said Hatfield loves to learn and wants to learn everything.
“He just has this enthusiasm and energy that makes people want to be around him,” Toalson said.
According to Columbia Public Schools, he is one of two Missouri students to be named Presidential Scholars and one of 141 students in the United States this year.
“He’s just a really well-rounded young man,” Rock Bridge Principal Kathy Ritter said. “It’s the type of award that will continue with him in his life.”
His father, Don Hatfield, said he has been pleasantly surprised by everything his son has done.
“(Alan’s) just had a joy for learning,” Don Hatfield said.
Awards for both student and teacher
Each year, one male student and one female student are chosen from each state to be Presidential Scholars. The program also recognizes American students living abroad, 15 at-large students and as many as 20 arts students.
Hatfield will go to Washington, D.C., from June 19-22 and will receive a medallion for his achievement. Toalson has high hopes that he will meet President Barack Obama, whom Hatfield supported during the presidential elections.
Hatfield invited Toalson to accompany him to Washington as his “most inspiring and challenging teacher,” according to the school district. She will receive a Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
Hatfield said he has known Toalson for a long time. He met her at College for Kids, a summer program for gifted children, which he attended at Westminster College in Fulton. Since then, they maintained contact throughout Hatfield’s middle school and junior high years, and he has taken her classes.
“She’s been helpful with the transition to college and my short- and long-term goals,” Hatfield said. “She’s definitely been a big part in my academic career.”
Plans for the future
Hatfield was also on Rock Bridge’s finance team and Model United Nations, but his scholarship does not stop there.
As for his goals, he plans to study public policy analysis and international relations at Princeton. He wants to combine his love of history, government, politics, economics and law.
Hatfield applied for the Bridge Year program at Princeton and, if chosen to participate, would go overseas for a year doing humanitarian work in Peru, Ghana, India or Serbia.
“Those are the international opportunities I’ve always wanted to pursue,” Hatfield said. The fully funded program would mean taking a gap year before college.
“I wouldn’t mind postponing college for another year if I got that type of opportunity,” he said.